A Nationwide Study Conducted by Construction Faculty at Penn State Rates Design-Build as Best Construction Delivery Method In U. S. Building Industry

Summarized by Sharon Morris, Marketing Director – Design Build Concepts

Victor Sanvido, Head of Penn State University’s Construction Program and Mark Konchar, a Penn State research scholar recently completed a nationwide study comparing the three principal project delivery systems used by the U.S. building industry today. The three delivery systems are: design-build, construction management-at-risk and design-bid-build (traditional architect/general contractor approach). Using construction data from 351 projects from 37 states, they compared cost, schedule and quality performance. The 37 projects ranged from 5,000 to 2.5 million-sq. ft. Their research indicated that design-build outperformed the other two project delivery methods on cost and schedule and yielded quality that was at least equal to or better than the others.


On cost, they found design-build was 4.5% less than CM-at-risk and 6% less than design-bid-build.


On construction speed, measured by sq. ft. completed per month, design-build was at least 7% faster than CM-at-risk and 12% faster than design-bid-build projects.

When construction speed included the project team’s design effort, design-build was 23% faster than CM-at-risk and 33% faster than traditional design-bid-build.


Quality performance was measured in seven specific areas and determined by asking new facility owners to measure actual versus expected performance of their facility. The mean performance of each project delivery system showed that design-build projects achieved equal, if not better quality results on average than the other delivery methods. Design-build and CM-at-risk significantly outperformed design-bid-build in terms of callbacks to the facility.

The research team also compared factors of the worst performing jobs to factors of the top-performing jobs. They found positive factors to include: engaging the contractor early in the design phase; allowing the owner to make decisions; having a highly defined scope of work; team communication; and the ability to qualify the bidders/contractor pool.


Design-build had the best rating on Cost, Time, and Quality – when compared to CM-at-risk and the traditional architect/general contractor delivery systems. Overall, there is a greater propensity for success when you build with a team approach, such as design-build.

For a complete copy of this study, you may contact:

The Project Delivery Institute
PO Box 1142
State College, PA16804
E-mail: pdipubl@aol.com

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